“Tough question coming up, but what are you five favourite books today?”
That’s how I started my date, fielding a question about my favourite books. It’s a tribute to the girl, who I was meeting for the first time, that she used the word, “Today,” showing a real readers understanding of the riddle we are most commonly posed.
Gave me a lot of hope that the date would work out well. Unfortunately the rest was a total bust, as an interest in books was the only thing we truly had in common.
But the question was posed. So, if you asked me today what my favourite books are, my answers would be as follows:
1984 – George Orwell
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” – George Orwell, 1984.
I”d probably pick 1984 on most days, in most months, of every year since I first read George Orwell’s dystopian divination.
The book is about life and everything that can go wrong when we, as a society, allow it to go wrong. When I first read 1984 I was utterly blown away by the foresight shown in a book that was written 30 years before I was born.
How could one man so accurately see the way our world was going change in the decades after his own era had come to pass? – it still amazes me every time I think about it; with the concept of Newspeak and Thought-Crime being among the most astounding insights in literature.
And my thoughts are now 20 years old. You look out of your window today; we’ve Boris and Brexit in the United Kingdom; the tweeting president in the United States of America; with fake new and social media influencers demonstrably affecting the way the average person lives and thinks.
These are strange and unusual times (aren’t they always?) but with every passing day 1984 becomes less a novel and more a road map for life.
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not after you.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22
If you were to say, “funniest book ever? – pick one, NOW!” my only answer would be Catch-22 by Mr. Joseph Heller. On the three occasions I’ve read it I’ve laughed and laughed, with a deeper understanding of the humour that’s written into every page.
The secret to the comedy, in this instance, is that it’s all based on the tragedy and insanity of how we wage war, with a wider understanding of the human condition thrown in for good measure.
I’m not big into quotes, being more of a visual reader, but Catch-22 is like reading a long list of the funniest quotes of all time. I could copy and paste a dozen here, without once having to go searching on Google for inspiration.
My advice to you, if you are in two minds about reading this particular book (full disclosure: it is a challenging and cerebral read), would be to spend half-an-hour just searching through exerts from the book.
Perhaps you wont find them funny, or insightful, but maybe those few quotes will be the inspiration that it takes for you to tackle the story proper
Dune – Frank Herbert
“There is no real ending, it’s just the place where you stop the story” – Frank Herbert
A Sci-Fi book, or perhaps, the Sci-Fi book? – I can think of comparably good novels of the genre, but not too many.
The story is wrapped up in space and time, littered with science beyond our current understanding, and a sort of monarchical system of government that has been widely abandoned long ago.
There are the entitled, the underdogs, the betrayed. The glutenous, the starving, the savages and the cultured.
Basically the story has every aspect of what it takes to enthrall a wide readership, which I have no doubt is why it’s a Sci-Fi book that appears on every fan’s shelf, even though the technology of our current world has developed far beyond what could have been believed at the time Dune was written.
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? – then do not be to eager to deal out death in judgement.”
Have you seen the movie? – well read the book. Just do it.
Don’t say to people, “But it’s so big and I already know how it’s going to end,” just pony up and devote whatever level of effort its takes (be it weeks, months or years) for you to read this book.
I can’t offer any insight that hasn’t already been made, or swear to you that the novel is without faults; but I can say, with certainty, that your life will be the richer for reading the prototype of nearly every piece of fantasy writing that has followed.
Just read this bloody book, tell you friends about it, buy copies for them, hand out copies of LOTR to strangers in street, and buy only one present for the children in your life.
Our natural gift, of pure imagination, dies a little with every passing blockbuster movie. If The Lord of the Rings can’t instill the gifts of imagination within you, then there isn’t a book that can.
Nightwatch – Terry Pratchett
“Two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.”
I realise that every other book on my list could (and perhaps should) be considered a classic, and to a greater or lesser extent is perfect example of what makes their particular genres great.
So, why have I selected a children’s book? – because it’s my favourite’s list, and because Terry Pratchett didn’t just write books that were just for children.
The Discworld was Sir Terry’s great creation, with Nightwatch (at least to my mind) the culmination of decades of writing, where he managed to weave perhaps his finest work.
I’ve picked Terry Pratchett because of the impact he’s had on my life. I’ve had 25 years of reading heavily, far more than a thousand novels I should imagine, yet still my mind turns time and again to my formative experiences exploring the Discworld.
The whole series is fun, accessible, and littered with the hidden wisdom’s of life.
And that’s my list. Ask me again tomorrow, and I might write you a different list, but those five that have sprung straight to mind today.
Gosh, just think of some of the books I’ve omitted: East of Eden, Heart of Darkness, The Fountainhead, The Brothers Karamazov, The Master and Margarita…
I better stop, before mind melts down trying to capture all of that genius at the same time.
[As always: if you want to talk about any of the books I’ve mentioned, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @leopoldbroom – I love hearing everyone’s thoughts about books, even if they are the polar opposite of my own – I know far from everything about literature and am always looking to learn.]